On December 20, 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published in the Federal Register a final rule requiring the installation of broadband infrastructure at the time of new construction or substantial rehabilitation of HUD-funded multifamily rental housing. While the title of the rule suggests that it applies only to HUD’s multifamily programs, it does also apply to multifamily rental units funded under the project-based voucher (PBV) program, the public housing capital fund, and Choice Neighborhoods programs.
The purpose of the rule is to “narrow the digital divide,” that is, to provide families residing in HUD-funded housing a platform from which to participate in the digital economy and thereby increase their access to economic opportunities. In addition to making it a requirement to install broadband infrastructure during new construction and substantial rehabilitation, the time at which installation is easier and less expensive, the rule also:
- Defines broadband infrastructure as cables, fiber optics, wiring, or other permanent (integral to the structure) infrastructure—including wireless infrastructure—as long as the installation results in broadband infrastructure in each dwelling unit meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) definition in effect at the time the pre-construction estimates are generated.
- Defines substantial rehabilitation for programs that do not already have a definition as work on the electrical system with estimated costs equal to or greater than 75 percent of the cost of replacing the entire electrical system, or when the estimated cost of the rehabilitation is equal to or greater than 75 percent of the total estimated cost of replacing the multifamily rental housing after the rehabilitation is complete. This definition for the purpose of broadband infrastructure does not affect definitions of rehabilitation already in place for other purposes.
Further details, including a comprehensive list of programs to which the requirements apply, can be found in the rule. It becomes effective January 19, 2017.
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